Nebraska Region Rallycross #1 at MAM

Sunday marked my second rallycross weekend in a row.  It works out pretty well since I don’t have much stuff to clean out of the car and my racing stuff is pretty much packed and ready to go from the previous outing.  The Nebraska race had me heading west towards the Iowa/Nebraska border.  I had never been to Mid America Motorplex before, so I was excited to see the track, even if I wasn’t going to be running on the tarmac itself.  The area we ran was at the very southwest corner of the MAM complex in an area that was going to be used for a go-kart track, but ended up being used for overflow parking instead.

When I got to the track, I unloaded my gear and chatted with a group of racers for a bit.  Then, I figured I had better get registered.  I was extremely impressed with the trailer the Nebraska region has.  The registration window allowed for the workers to keep warm and had hookups for all of the computers that were being used.  The back of the trailer had the “ticket window” registration area with plenty of storage room for the larger items.  At the front of the trailer, there was a nice sized timing and scoring area with those electronics, walkie talkies, and other gadgets.  It was a very impressive trailer.

Since I am working towards bringing rallycross to the DMVR region, I had asked to shadow the safety steward for the day’s events.  It turns out, Jerry Doctor, the safety steward for the event is the regional safety steward that I need to have sign off my paperwork in order to get my safety steward license.  He has a very straight-forward approach and I knew I was going to learn a lot from him.  He had me walk the course and then we discussed any areas that I thought problems may occur.  The ground was pretty soft due to the area being fairly low and the recent thawing of the ground.  There were also some packed down areas with some rock for the overflow parking that had the potential of rutting where the soft ground met the hard paths.  We checked out several areas before I had to leave and get ready for my runs.

Because there were only 18 cars registered at the event, it was determined that everyone would be able to get eight total runs with four in the morning and four in the afternoon.  We divided up into two groups (Modified 2/4 and everything else) with the “everything else” group driving first.  I really didn’t know what to expect since my only previous rallycross experience was in several inches of snow.  I took it relatively easy for my first run to get acclimated with the softer, but grippier dirt.  The all-wheel drive of my Impreza really shines on this type of surface because you can go through corners with the back end sliding out just a bit, but all four tires are still clawing at the ground to move the car forward.

I think I was a little too eager on my first four runs because I managed to punish a few cones with my front bumper.  In getting used to the different surface, I got a little too close and killed two cones on my first run and added another on my fourth.  I was doing fairly well through most of the turns, but the slalom towards the middle of the run was giving me problems.  I was too used to autocrossing and needed to make earlier inputs so the car would respond when driving on the softer surface.

After the first four runs, I met back up with Jerry to discuss the course conditions and watch the next run group.  After a few minor changes to the course, the modified group was underway.  With the more aggressive tires on the modified group, you could see plenty of dirt being thrown as ruts started to develop.  We discussed what needed to be done before starting the afternoon session.  Once the modified group was done, Jerry looked over at me and said something along the lines of, “one thing to learn about our group is that when we rallycross, we eat.”  During the modified group, the event master had started up a large grill (that fits nicely in the trailer) and grilled up some hotdogs.  The food, chips, and pop were included with the registration fee so we ate up.  I think I like the way Nebraska region runs their events.

Once the feast was winding down, Jerry, the event master, and myself went around to look at the problem areas of the course and make adjustments.  We chopped a large sweeper off the beginning of the course and made some minor tweaks to the slalom.  Other than that, the course was holding up pretty well.  The afternoon session reversed the running order so the modified group got the first go at the revised course.  I chatted with Jerry as we watched for any new problem spots, but everything seemed to be holding up well.  Finally, it was time for my final four runs.

During the lunch break, timing and scoring had printed out the times for the first four runs.  I was sitting in fourth place by a little over four and a half seconds.  Had I not hit the three cones, I would have been in third, so I vowed to not hit any on my afternoon runs.  I got into my car and drove hard, but safe on the afternoon course.  Because of the changes, the new course was approximately 10-11 seconds quicker than the morning.  I was doing pretty well and hadn’t touched a cone in the afternoon.  After my third run, a course adjustment had to be made so I waited while the dual-driver cars made their runs through the course.

Because I was using the Trackmaster app on my phone for data logging, the battery had been running down so I pulled my charger out during the short break to make sure I had enough juice to log the last run.  The 7-10 minute wait had allowed me to bump the phone’s battery out of the red so that I would have enough battery to finish the day.  I put the charger back in the glove box, mounted the phone to my windshield, and got the camera ready.

I pulled up to the line for my final run, ready make it my best of the day.  As the countdown began, I revved the engine for my launch and dumped the clutch when I heard, “GO!”  It was a great launch and I was on the course with good speed.  However, the launch had also jarred open my glovebox that must not have closed correctly.  Even though I always lock my belts to hold me securely in my seat, I tried reaching over and shutting the glove box.  After the second or third unsuccessful try, I decided to just leave it and focus on a smooth run.  I didn’t hit any cones, but that run was almost three seconds slower than my previous.

After we finished, I helped a few other guys pick up the course and get the trailer loaded.  I was kind of surprised that very few local people helped out, opting instead to stand around munching on snacks or chatting.  I helped load the trailer and get everything cleaned up so that we could get the final results.  As the results were read and medals handed out, I sadly hadn’t gained any positions.  I finished in fourth place out of five in the Stock All-Wheel drive class, but had gained a little time.  In the afternoon, I had run better than the third place finisher, but still finished 1.8 seconds back.  I was happy to see that I had finished 9th out of 18 cars.  Finishing in the top half at my second rallycross is fine by me.  It was also pointed out during the awards ceremony that the fastest time of the day had been run by a Stock All-Wheel drive classed car and not a Modified.  I’ll bet you’ll never see that happen at an autocross.

Overall, it was a very fun event and the people were really nice.  I learned a lot from Jerry and he offered to do a rallycross safety steward class if I could round up a few others in Des Moines.  I plan on heading back over to Nebraska for some of their future events as the drive isn’t too bad.  Driving in the dirt is really a lot of fun and can’t wait for the next rallycross.  My next race, however, is the season opening DMVR autocross.  Time to clean up the Impreza and get the racing tires ready.

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